Sterilizing laboratory equipment or any surgical instruments, is a key step in any medical process. Sterilization is probably the most important stage or aspect when it comes to the formation of a laboratory or any medical facility. That is why; the vertical pressure autoclave is very common in hospitals health care, dental clinic, laboratory and even food industry for the sterilization of instruments. About sterilization, you should know that a reliable process depends on the contact of the sterilizing agent with all surfaces of the item that is going to be sterilized.
In case you are wondering how an autoclave works, you should know that this device is just a large steel vessel in which steam is circulated to sterilize things. Vertical pressure autoclaves work by the principle of high pressure, making these devices self-sealing, although there are a few models you can close manually for safety reasons. Since autoclaves work with high-pressure steam, they have a safety valve that ensures the steam pressure cannot build up to a dangerous level.
It is more likely that you know about autoclaves as being sterilization items inside laboratories and the medical field. However, they can also carry out industrial processes and scientific experiment that require having high temperatures and pressure. In sterilizing autoclaves usually circulate steam, however in the case of industrial and scientific autoclaves, other gases may circulate to produce chemical reactions. For example:
- Rubber can be vulcanized (heated, toughened, and hardened with sulfur) in an autoclave.
- Nylon (a plastic) can be made by "cooking" a concentrated salt solution in an autoclave to encourage what is called condensation polymerization.
- Polyethylene (polythene, another plastic) can be made by circulating air or organic peroxides through an autoclave to polymerize ethylene.
- Airplane materials made from composites are also typically cured in large industrial autoclaves.
Vertical pressure autoclave
You should know that this type of autoclave has an air vent at the top, which is manually closed after all the air has been exhausted. This might translate into a possible disadvantage since some air may remain under the steam, causing a lower temperature to be reached in this area and resulting in a not successful sterilizing process.
Although vertical pressure autoclaves have specific features and functions, you should know there are a number of aspects any kind of autoclaves must have. A source of saturated steam under pressure, from either a steam line or water placed in the autoclave prior to operation, a pressure gauge indicating the pressure within the chamber. In addition, a safety valve to prevent explosion if the pressure becomes too high. A method to remove air. Moreover, shut off valve to prevent the escape of steam once the air has been removed. Another important aspect, these devices need to have a temperature gauge, a valve to release steam at the end of sterilization. Finally, a door seal, a timer and a safety locking mechanism for the door.
Using an autoclave
As any laboratory equipment, there are some guidelines you should follow in order to successfully use autoclaves to achieve reliable results and to avoid being harmed. The first thing you need to do is to wear appropriate protective equipment, including a lab coat, heat resistant gloves and eye protection. Do not use sealing containers, under pressure they become an explosion risk. If you see water running out the bottom, do not open the door. Another important thing you should keep in mind is that you should wait for the pressure to reach zero and the temperature is at or below 121°C before opening the door at the end of the cycle. This way you will avoid steam burns and shattered glassware.
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